Forever Young



A Unique Perspective on His Survival

“Anything good?” Marilyn asked as I was thumbing through the mail.

“Yea, something from Social Security. Hey, maybe they increased my benefits,” I replied, experimenting with the outer limits of wishful thinking.

I ripped open the envelope addressed to Mr. Jon Kawie (they misspelled my name yet again) and proceeded to paraphrase the enclosed form loud enough for Marilyn to hear.

“This is to inform you that we no longer consider you Disabled. As of now you are officially just Old. Your benefits will be decreased accordingly.”

“Seriously?”

“OK, not exactly in those words — but apparently I’ve been reclassified from disability to retirement with a pay cut in the process!”

I was speechless. How did I suddenly become non-disabled when I still felt pretty damn disabled? If my neurologist — who actually has a degree in medicine — came up with this diagnosis there would be talk of commitment proceedings. It’s not like Dumbledore waved his magic wand and — poof! — my left hand started working. Plus, being labeled “old” was more offensive to me than “disabled.”

It felt like Social Security had traded me behind my back. For 20 years I was the leadoff hitter working my butt off for Team Disability. Then suddenly, without warning, I’m sitting on the bench for The Geriatrics where I’m just a number. Granted, a nine-digit number, but a number nonetheless.

I had two choices. I could see this as a premature separation from my rightful group, or I could embrace it. While I didn’t exactly embrace it, especially the reduction in dollars, I did try to look on the bright side and find some common ground.

For instance, having my stroke at 47 was like a dress rehearsal for my senior years. I was instantly eligible for Social Security and Medicare with all the accompanying perks: movie discounts, restaurant coupons and half price on planes, trains and rent-an-automobile! America may run on Dunkin’ but I got the discount.

Then there’s the forgetfulness… I’m at a dinner party trying to have a serious conversation expressing my opinion about “That guy… you know… lives in that house… always in the news… nice suits…” Suddenly I’m playing charades, until someone blurts out, “President of the United States!” Yet I have no problem remembering the Doublemint gum jingle, both melody and lyrics!

What would this new classification mean?

I’ll have to surrender my disability Metro card for a senior’s replacement. Before you know it, I’ll start referring to people under 40 as “whippersnappers” and words like “dagnabbit” and “brouhaha” will be part of my everyday vocabulary. I’ll become crotchety and irritated with the teenage greeter at CVS because, damn it, I know where the Geritol is! “Antiques Roadshow” will have to be avoided because any appraisal above $10 will be too much for my heart. I’ll hate every song written after the Beatles broke up. And if menus aren’t printed in letters the size of Chris Christie, I’ll need binoculars to order the early bird special.

It seems to be human nature to label people and put them in categories. Our parents gave us names because they wanted us to have an identity and to know who we are. I’m neither old nor disabled. I’m just John — with an “h” of course.

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Stroke Rehabilitation Two-Part Series

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

What to Expect in Stroke Rehab

Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-art series, we want to alleviate some of the mystery, fear and anxiety around the inpatient rehab part of the stroke recovery journey.
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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear.

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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Departments

Stroke Notes

Stroke-related news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.

Readers Room

Articles, poems and art submitted by stroke survivors and their loved ones.

Life Is Why

Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. These stroke survivors, caregivers and others share their 'whys'. We'd love for you to share yours, too!

Everyday Survival

Practical tips and advice for day-to day living after stroke.

Life At The Curb

A unique perspective on survival by comedian and stroke survivor John Kawie.

Simple Cooking

Cooking at home can be a daunting task, but a rewarding one for your diet and lifestyle (and your wallet). Making small changes in your diet is important to your heart health. Here are simple, healthy and affordable recipes and cooking tips.

Support Showcase

Our new department highlighting the good work being done by stroke support groups from around the nation. If you are part of a successful support group we should consider featuring, let us know!